Hamishletter

A growing town with reducing public services – Melton deserves better

Hamish McAuley

Vice Chair LCM Liberal Democrats

 

Good news everyone, Melton is thriving! It seems barely a week passes between headlines about new developments in the town, within the past fortnight alone we’ve learned that construction on the ring road will start next month and plans for redevelopment of the Thorpe Road hospital site have been approved. Melton has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country; and so it should, it has numerous employers,large and small, offering high quality jobs. We sit near the economic centre of England with good access to major trunk routes. The town has close social and economic ties both to its beautiful surrounding rural heartlands and its nearby cities. And on top of all that, it’s a nice place to live.

But there is a problem, as with many places, the thriving growth of the town has led to pressures and pinch points, many not unique to Melton. But then again Melton’s growth isn’t slowing, it’s speeding up. Sitting with a friend at the Waterfield Leisure centre watching our kids mess about during their swimming lesson, my friend reminisced that she had learned to swim in that very same pool. She’s in her 40s. Melton’s only public swimming pool was built in 1965 when Melton’s population was roughly 15000 people. Today Melton has a population approaching 30000 with 4500 new homes under proposed development. Despite the near doubling in demand, kids have the same number of pools to learn to swim in as they did in the 60s. The swimming teacher reminds useach week that we should try to get the boys back to the pool before the next lesson, but when I try to book a time the pool is full for weeks in advance. I know it sounds trivial, but it’s a pinch point that highlights what I know is a wider problem. I can only imagine the other areas that people find their public services and facilities haven’t kept pace with the population.

Surely this is the job of local government. Our planning system puts a lot of power at a local level, only local councils have the ability to set local policies and plans to ensure that housing developments are intrinsically tied to investment forthe community. We can’t change the past, but we can look forwards and as we do I want to see our representatives put forward their visions. Last week our MP wrote in this column about her work to ensure the delivery of the ring road and then about the safer street initiative in Melton with more CCTV around the town and an offer of better door locks for residents. These are worthy investments, but doesn’t it go without saying that any mention of development with more housing must be followed immediately by the plan to grow public services and leisure facilities to match? Melton needs investment in parks, it needs a library suitable for young and old in the internet age, it needs public spaces that aren’t immediately next to major roads clogged with HGVs, it needs swimming pools and sports centres to help our kids to grow and our adults stay healthy. I think it’s time for more vision on how Melton’s local government can deliver for its community, not just its property developers. Tells us where public services haven’t kept pace for you: [email protected]

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